February 13, 2007

Just say no to loans

We have bought seven bicycles since we came to Honduras and none of them were for us. Three were gifts to sobrinos (nephews and nieces) and four were loans to employees. It seemed a good way to help out the employees. We were partly lucky and partly wise, and we were repaid for these loans.

Other loans or advances on salaries haven't worked out so well. An old friend of El Jefe's asked for a loan of L.1,000 once to help his mother who was in a bad situation. I suggested that we just give him the money and forget about it. El Jefe didn't want to do that, so he made the loan. We never received even one lempira back. To me that shows a lack of honor. We would have been happy if he had even paid L.10 lempiras a week, just something to show that he valued our friendship and respected us. But .... nothing.

One worker came to us on a payday almost in tears. His father was in the hospital. He needed to buy medicine for him. His pay wasn't enough. Could he have a loan of L.500? He was so sad and so humble, of course we couldn't refuse. That was the last time we saw him. He didn't come back to work on Monday and of course, never paid back a centavo of the loan.

One maid had me in tears, telling me about how she had to move her children to her mother's house because her roof was leaking so badly, the children's bed was soaked, and they were sick. She wanted to borrow money to buy laminas (sheets of metal roofing material) to repair her roof. El Jefe was absolutely against it but I insisted that I wanted to help her and he finally relented.

I excitedly went to tell her. I said that we could order the laminas at a discount at the ferreteria (hardware store) that we used and even have them delivered to her home. There was a long pause, some eye shifting, then ".... Uh.....ummm.... no, the money is better." El Jefe was right; it was a scam. She quit shortly after that. Apparently, she had been expecting to take the proceeds from an unpaid loan with her when she left.

We've had employees "forget" they had a loan, insist they already paid it back, argue about how much they owe, and get angry because we actually expected them to make a payment on their loan each week. El Jefe says that to make a loan is to make a new enemy.

We have been asked for loans from employees, former employees, contractors, friends, distant relatives, neighbors, and even the water man (to buy a new truck!). Now we just say no!

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